Happy 4th of July!! It's kind of weird not being in the States to celebrate. I have to say I miss it, especially going to River Park to bbq at my best friend Liz's house and then watching the fireworks on the levy : ( But then again, I am in Italy, which is pretty amazing in and of itself! The past couple days have been really busy with school, as both Thursday and Friday were long days. On Wednesday, we took a class field trip to the Camera dei Deputati, aka the Italian Parliament, where we were given a guided tour. We were required to dress formally to enter the building, and the guys even had to wear a jacket and tie! Luckily, I got off easy and was let in wearing jeans and a t-shirt. The tour in itself wasn't too interesting, but the building and the rooms were quite impressive. The highlight of the tour (once again in Italian) was getting to sit in on the Parliament members in session. The whole set up reminded me of the State Capitol back in Sacramento. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to have cameras, so I only got pics from outside. That night I tried to recreate the rice from the cookin class I took last weekend. The best part was using parboiled rice, which is my new favorite thing because you cook it just like pasta! It was edible and actually even pretty good, but it didn't quite taste like the original. But it was nice to actually cook something rather than just making pasta or a sandwhich, plus the zucchini was delicious : )
Thursday was super long. Like I said before, on Thursdays, in addition to having class from 9:30-1pm like every other day, we also have a session from 2-4:30, usually in the form of a field trip or excursion to expose us to aspects of the Italian culture. But since we already had two field trips this week, we stayed at the Study Center for the afternoon session and watched these boring short films about Italian soccer fans. Basically, it was just too much school in one day. I also found out that Rome's public transportation is going on strike this Monday (buses, trams, and the Metro!), and will only be running super early in the morning and between 5 and 8pm. That means we have no way of getting to or from school, except walking, which takes an hour and is torture in this heat and humidity, or getting to school really really early and hanging around for 4 hours to take it home. I'm especially bitter because we literally just bought our bus passes for this month! I heard a rumor that it is only lasting one day though, so I'm crossing my fingers. On the way home, Carly and I got ice cream cones from McDonalds, and besides making a bad day a little better, they reminded me of home a bit : )
Friday we had our first oral exam, which didn't go as well as I hoped. I knew wht she was asking me, but once again I got nervous and my thoughts jumbles and came out all messy. I don't think I did terribly, but I certainly could have done better. I've realized I need to work on being more forward and active when it comes to speaking, in and out of the classroom, despite my insecurities. After the exam we had about an hour and a half break before our orientation with the Padova and Bologna staff (where we are all going in the fall). I had planned on visiting Castel Sant'Angelo as it is only 5 minutes away from the Study Center, but when I got there they were closing early for some special event! Instead I took some pics from the bridge with St. Peters in the distance. The orientation was very general since we'll get more info when we arrive in our host city. We did get to meet the staff from Padova though, and both seemed very nice. The realization of what I'm taking on in the fall hit me half way through the orientation though, and I'm not sure I'm ready for such a challenge! But I guess worrying now won't help, and the challenges were why I signed up for this in the first place.
After school I went out exploring on my own for the first time. I only had a couple hours, so I hit up two piazzas and a couple churches. First I went to Piazza Barberini, with the Triton Fountain by Bernini and the Fountain of Bees, also by Bernini. I had wanted to check out a church nearby I had read about in my guidebook, San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, but the hours have changed since publication and it was closed (I didn't have very good luck today with places being open). I happened to pass another church I had marked in my book, however, Sant'Andrea al Quirinale, which was quite beautiful. It was designed by Bernini in an oval shape, and the altar had an impressive figure of St. Andrew floating heavenwards through a broken pediment above, designed by Bernini's star pupil. As I was walking back to the Metro, I saw a taxi hit a woman trying to cross the street! He slammed on his brakes, and then I heard a scream and saw a woman limping from in front of the car. With the crazy way Italians drive, crossing the street is risky no matter how careful you are!
I took the Metro to Piazza Popolo, where I saw: the Egyptian Obelisk brought from Egypt in 10BC with statues of lions spouting water surrounding the base; the Porta del Popolo, which is a large archway leading to the Via Flaminia, a road which many acient travelers took to enter Rome; the "twin" churches Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto, both designed by Carlo Rainaldi not actually identical since the surface area of one is smaller, but he used a circular dome on one and an oval dome on the other to give the illusion of symmetry; the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, but I couldn't find many of the things inside that my guidebook described; finally I climber this little hill at one end of the piazza, which gave me this great view of everything.
Tonite we are going to try and find a pub to quasi-celebrate the 4th of July, and maybe even find some fireworks! Then this weekend I'm going to try to fit in as many sites, churches, and museums as I can. Also, three of my roommates and I are going to the gorgeous island of Capri in a couple weekends, and we just booked our hostel, so that is something to look forward to. On a more serious note, I've just found out that the Santa Ynez mountains in Goleta are on fire, which is quite close to Isla Vista and UCSB. Hopefully it can be contained and doesn't harm these places I love so dearly! To all you Americans, have a wonderful and safe 4th of July!!